Many students across the Hilliard City School District were excited on March 20 to begin spring break, but a few fourth- and fifth-graders at Norwich Elementary School were more reserved.

Many students across the Hilliard City School District were excited on March 20 to begin spring break, but a few fourth- and fifth-graders at Norwich Elementary School were more reserved.

They were concerned about the health of their teacher, Cathie Maple. They knew it probably would be her last day of the school year.

On the opposite side of the building, some of Jennifer Duncan's fourth- and fifth-grade students were also a little concerned for their teacher.

The fates of the two teachers will be forever linked after March 27.

Cathie will undergo her second kidney transplant at The Ohio State University Medical Center, using the kidney of Jennifer's husband, Derek.

Tears well in the eyes of both teachers as they think about the day Derek made the decision to donate one of his kidneys to save Cathie's life.

Cathie has a genetic disorder, polycystic kidney disease, which caused a variety of ailments and eventually forced her to undergo dialysis.

Her father died at the beginning of 2000 from the same disease, just as she started the dialysis.

Cathie's husband, Rob, donated one of his kidneys in August of 2000.

"The first transplant did not go well," said Cathie. "They took my husband into the one room and they started trying to harvest the kidney from him and they took me in the other room and I coded even before they started the procedure."

When husband and wife awoke, the first thing Rob said was, "Oh great, it's a dry run."

The doctors did not know until the transplant that Cathie was allergic to two of the medications.

Two days later, the entire medical team came together again to finish what they started, a successful transplant.

"I lived my life every single day thanking him for that," Cathie said of Rob.

The doctors told her the new kidney would probably last for years.

Rob, who serves in the National Guard, was called to active duty and headed for the Middle East in the fall of 2006, leaving Cathie with their two sons, Coty and Ian. Cathie tried to stay positive, but she worried about her husband's safety. At the same time, she started getting sick again. Her body rejected Rob's kidney.

Last fall, her condition deteriorated significantly and she was told that a second transplant was needed, but she has no siblings and her mother has breast cancer.

Principal Karen Lehrer came up with the idea of sharing details with the staff, in the hopes that someone in the school family might step forward.

Jennifer went home that night and told Derek about Cathie's plight because he knew her. She said she was giving their sons a bath when he came into the room and asked what he should do. Jennifer was thinking that he could help scrub or possibly hand her a towel, and then Derek made it clear he was talking about Cathie.

Tears still form in her eyes as she recalls that moment.

Their 3-year-old nephew died a short time earlier and they were still reeling from the loss.

After some discussion, during which Jennifer acknowledges she had to put her own fears aside, she and Derek called Rob, because Cathie was in bed too sick to talk, and they asked her blood type.

"I couldn't believe someone would do that for me," said Cathie. "It is a great honor and responsibility to accept an organ."

Many die waiting for a transplant, she said, but with a kidney it can be different, because there are live donors. Cathie recognizes the risk to herself as well as to Derek.

"I do not believe God has brought me this far for nothing," said the 40-year-old woman. "Through faith and perseverance, anything is possible."

The transplant was set for April, but the doctors decided to expedite it because Cathie's condition is worsening.

She said she retains fluid and the creaton level in her kidneys has shot up. "There is a lot of pain in the joints," she said. "It is very difficult to move."

Gout developed in her feet, but the doctors cannot give her medicine for the gout because the medication affects the kidneys.

As her blood pressure rose to 183 over 100, the doctors were also worried about a stroke and placed her on three different medications.

The worst thing about it being a genetic disease, Cathie said, is the fear that she will pass it on to her children.

"I know the life that I have led," she said. "No parent wants that for their children, because it has been filled with lots of doctors and lots of pain and lots of medication."

Cathie and Jennifer discussed the situation with their students in February in a way they thought they could handle it, explaining the health risks to Cathie and Derek.

Jennifer said she tried not to give too much detail and she tried not to reveal her fears. "Fear is as strong as you let it be," she said.

She wants her students to understand that the little things you do for people can be important.

"As much as I tried not to, I cried," said Cathie. "They cried with me. I had one little girl climb up into my lap."

The teacher and the student comforted one another. "I remember saying to her, 'I need this so I can hurry up and come back to you,'" Cathie said.